The Green Hornet goes to the same tailor as Don “Magic” Juan.
The Green Hornet
Starring: Seth Rogan, Jay Chou, Christopher Waltz, Cameron Diaz
Directed by Michael Gondry
Prior to this movie, the Green Hornet was one of the few American superhero properties that had nowhere to go but down. Granted, the 1960s TV show based around the character lasted only one season, but it managed to offer a blossoming Bruce Lee and enough gravity and digestible noir (carried over from the Hornet’s origins as a 1930s radio serial) to reinforce its parent program “Batman” as a pathetically campy circus. Furthermore, Van Williams’s failure to achieve world renown in the titular role only served to strengthen the mystery and intrigue of the Green Hornet character as he faded into the pulpy pages of comic history.
George W. Trendle and Fran Striker’s dashing creation certainly deserved a run at a big budget movie, but how could anyone make the Hornet stand out in a cinematic field already cluttered with misunderstood vigilante superheroes? Columbia Pictures decided to hire Seth Rogan and make The Green Hornet a slacker action comedy. Rogan also wrote the script with his Superbad buddy Evan Goldberg; Unfortunately, the pair’s post-modern dude-meister tone isn’t as satisfying when it’s emanating from a protagonist who has supposedly realized a greater moral calling to infiltrate crime rings and thwart them. Rogan’s Britt Reid is, like so many of the actor’s other characters, a fussy and spoiled man-child with an affinity for hip-hop who has real trouble sticking those moments of stoic heroism.
Case in point: This Green Hornet actually apologizes—sheepishly, even!—to a cowering criminal after crashing his famed armored limo the Black Beauty into a clandestine meth lab. Say what you will about Van Williams, but that son of a carpenter never apologized to street scum.
It’s disheartening to see such a bumbling Hornet, but if you’ve been charmed at all by Rogan before your frown surely won’t cement. The other curious component of this film is director Michael Gondry. Known for more cerebral fare such as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Human Nature, Gondry wobbles a bit (mostly in terms of pacing) as he hammers in the tent poles of his first high profile action comedy. Stephen Chow, the Hong Kong filmmaker originally slated to helm The Green Hornet and star as Kato, may have produced a tighter affair had he stayed on, but then we would have missed out on Jay Chou’s playfully endearing turn as the Hornet’s mysterious kung fu chauffer. Chou makes Kato his own without disrespecting Bruce Lee’s original ass-kicking stamp and even evokes the late legend during a few of Gondry’s legitimately thrilling fight sequences.
With Kato serving as the Green Hornet’s right-hand man, it was a little superfluous to throw in Cameron Diaz as aspiring secretary Lenore Case (who helps our heroes unravel a sticky web of corruption mostly from the safety of her desk), but the movie has fun with the audience’s preconceived notion about why the comely actress was thrown into the mix in the first place. In the end, that’s really the final word on the entire affair—they sure have some fun with this sleek hero, but The Green Hornet is far from avenging millionaire Britt Reid’s defining step-out. Box office figures suggest Rogan probably won’t return in a sequel two or three years from now. That’s fine—this masked man can once again fade into the background and await the next prime opportunity to sink his stinger into our collective moist fleshy parts.
FINAL SCORE: Two and a half Kato karate kicks (out of four).